Precision questioning is an essential skill for your toolkit, effective in personal relationships, work, and problem-solving.
Asking effective questions helps gather information, understand perspectives, and build rapport with others.
Here are ten tips to help you build and improve your precision questioning.
- Practice active listening: Pay attention to the speaker, avoid interrupting, and ask clarifying questions to better understand the information. (See my five tips to practice active listening here)
- Prepare questions beforehand: Consider the purpose of the conversation and the information you want to gather, and develop a list of specific, open-ended questions to guide the conversation. I use this for critical conversations a short list of the principal questions I want to ask.
- Use open-ended questions: Encourage more dialogue by asking questions that start with "what," "how," "tell me about," etc.
- Avoid leading questions: Avoid asking questions that suggest a specific answer, as this can skew the conversation and limit the information gathered.
- Use probing questions: Follow up on initial responses with deeper questions to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the subject.
- Avoid asking multiple questions at once: Stick to one question at a time to allow full answers and avoid confusion.
- Take notes: Record the key information and follow-up questions to help keep track of the conversation and ensure all relevant information is gathered.
- Seek feedback: Ask a trusted colleague for constructive feedback on your questioning skills and use it to improve. In the past I've asked people to shadow me at interviews for feedback.
- Use tools: Utilize question-generating tools, such as a questioning framework or questionnaire, to help structure your questioning and ensure all relevant information is gathered.
- Continuously improve: Regularly assess and refine your questioning skills, stay up-to-date on best practices, and seek opportunities for growth and development.
Frameworks for Precision Questioning
- STAR: This framework is commonly used in job interviews to structure behavioural questions that ask about a specific situation, task, action, and result. The STAR method helps to gather information about a candidate's past experiences and assess their ability to handle similar situations in the future.
- GROW: This framework is used in coaching (and performance management) to help individuals identify goals, explore challenges and obstacles, identify options for overcoming these challenges, and determine the best way forward.
- D.I.S.C.: The DISC framework is used to understand an individual's communication and behavior style, allowing the questioner to tailor their questions and communication to better match the style of the person they are interacting with. The acronym stands for "Dominance," "Influence," "Steadiness," and "Conscientiousness." By understanding these styles, the questioner can create a more productive and effective interaction.